Since being founded in December 2020, Omaha Productions has become one of the most popular and fastest-growing companies in the sports media industry. Founded by NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and former ESPN and Fox Sports executive Jamie Horowitz, Omaha Productions initially made its mark through football-focused programming such as its Emmy award-winning ManningCast, “Peyton’s Places,” and the hit Netflix docuseries “Quarterback,” produced in a partnership with NFL Films.
However, the company is increasingly branching out beyond football. Thanks in part due to the popularity of ManningCast, an alternate Monday Night Football telecast with an average audience six years younger than a typical Monday Night Football viewer, Omaha Productions is also trying its hand at alternate NBA telecasts.
Recently, during the finale of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament, Omaha Productions teamed up with actor and comedian Kevin Hart to host “NBA Unplugged,” an alternate telecast with a similar format to the one the Manning brothers employ most Monday nights during Monday Night Football. Hart, a past winner of four NBA Celebrity All-Star Game MVPs, will also host “NBA Unplugged” for ESPN on January 5th and January 10th, with more potential dates to be announced later in the season.
“Oh my goodness, the world of sports just got a lot better because they let me in,” Hart said as the broadcast began on Saturday, December 9th. “Sports commentating is now officially involving Kevin Hart.”
The show’s first broadcast wasn’t entirely focused on Hart, however. Several A-list guests joined Hart for commentary and conversation during the game, which the Los Angeles Lakers would eventually win 123-109 to capture the first-ever in-season tournament championship.
“I got sick of seeing what I was seeing, and I said I would get in because I want it to be something else than what I was seeing…and to do it right, I said I need to do it with my crew,” Hart declared as he introduced the Plastic Cup Boyz, a comedy group that regularly tours with Hart and collectively performs as his opening act.
As the game began, viewers were instantly treated to a fresh take on sports broadcasting that many are finding more enjoyable and engaging than what they are used to seeing.
“This is where I think they are going to give the Lakers trouble. They love to run. I believe they are the number-one team in fast breaks,” Spank Horton noted in the first quarter as the Pacers brought the ball up the court.
“Spank, what I don’t want you to do is just start saying stuff without knowing,” Hart immediately clapped back.
“I said I believe,” Spank lightheartedly quipped.
Shortly after the start of the second quarter, longtime host of ESPN’s “First Take” Stephen A. Smith joined Hart and the Plastic Cup Boyz on the broadcast. Hart was ready to get Smith’s thoughts on the game as he joined, but Stephen A. had to get something off his chest first.
“Let me interrupt you. First of all, you’re my boy, I love you to death, but don’t be trying to lean back while also at the same time acting like you’re some professional Sportscenter or sports show host. Talk like you normally talk,” Smith joked. “Talk like you talk when you’re calling me whining about the Eagles.”
Stephen A. left before halftime, but Hart and the Plastic Cup Boyz weren’t flying solo for long. They were joined after halftime by Ice Cube’s oldest son and O’Shea Jackson, an actor, rapper, and songwriter. Former NBA player Richard Jefferson and current Philadelphia 76ers guard Patrick Beverly also joined the broadcast during the second half.
“NBA Unplugged” is a collaboration between Omaha Productions and Hart’s media company, Hartbeat. The vision of Hartbeat is to provide quality entertainment at the intersection of culture and comedy that keeps everyone laughing together. This goal mirrors the purpose of Omaha Productions, which is to produce content that unifies and uplifts people.
Currently, Omaha Productions employs over 40 staff members and is worth more than $400 million. Peyton Manning is the recognizable face that sports fans know and love, and Omaha’s president Jamie Horowitz leads the creative and innovative production work that has made the young company feel different. The company is poised for even greater growth with multiple rumors of an NBA version of Quarterback coming to Netflix this summer.